“From the very beginning, they were very interesting to follow,” Federer said. “I think they hardly played any juniors, really, which made it more of a mystery because you just didn’t know exactly what to expect from them. And coming from being coached by their dad, it’s an incredibly fascinating story.
“And then for many years we were worried they were going to check out early with sickness or injuries. We weren’t sure if they’re going to play as long as we hoped them to play. And here we are. They are both over 35, 36, and still basically playing at the top. Serena being a mom now, Venus overcame a lot of also difficult situations and still playing.”
Federer called Serena’s comeback post-baby “maybe the story of the year.”
“Hopefully, she decides to play a lot and enjoy herself in the process and get back to who knows how high?” he said. “It almost doesn’t matter, but it would just be amazing to see her do it now.”
Federer planned to watch the sisters’ third-round match with interest.
“I think it’s great for the sport and they have done so much already,” he said. “This is like the extra lap they are doing and the fans can enjoy it.”
The candidates are dwindling for the $1 million bonus promised to the man or woman who wins both singles and doubles titles here. The men still in the running are Jack Sock, Feliciano Lopez, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Pablo Cuevas and Sam Querrey. With defending champ Elena Vesnina, who had perhaps the best chance among anyone in the women’s draw, losing in the third round Monday, there are no potential women’s winners remaining.
Following her third-round exit Monday, Sloane Stephens, who turns 25 next week, predicted she would play five more years and “definitely not” into Fed- and Williams range. Asked why, Stephens smiled. “We’ll see. Serena had a baby, and eventually I want to have a baby as well,” she said. “So if she comes back and wins a couple more Slams, maybe I will think about it. But I’m kind of just gauging it on how well she does and then we’ll see.”
Stephens would not go so far as to characterize the period after winning the US Open — a span in which she went 0-6, then 2-3 in 2018 coming into Indian Wells — as a “crash.”
“There’s a lot that comes with winning a Grand Slam, and I think there is a lot that comes with winning a Grand Slam as an American player,” she said. “Being in the first final that wasn’t Venus and Serena in, like, the longest time ever — I don’t even know how long it was — I think there was a lot that came with that.”
“I wouldn’t say there was a crash, but going to China after you win the US Open is not always going to be the funnest thing. So I think now I’m kind of getting back into it, and I’m just looking forward to playing again. And being in the States is — the fans are incredible and it’s a good vibe. Just trying to do my best.”
Stephens had big plans to watch the Serena-Venus third-round match, Monday night: “I’m just looking forward to putting my feet up and getting, like, a cheeseburger or something…Probably just go to In-N-Out, get, like, a double-double with, like, cheese fries or something. If you’re going to go bad, you might as well do it real bad. And probably a milkshake.”
In his 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(1) comeback against Fernando Verdasco, American Taylor Fritz has now won 11 of 12 final-set tiebreaks. “I think it speaks to my strengths on court, which is just being clutch and playing my best tennis in the big moments. Kind of when it comes down to it like that, I don’t get too nervous. And I am aware and it’s probably the stat that I’m most proud about in my tennis career. It shows that I’m clutch.”